Architect Test

What is the best testing order for the Architect Registration Exam?This post is part of a series on NCARB’s Architecture Registration Exam. Having recently completed this long process, the series examines my journey and the various things I learned along the way. Click here to see all the posts of my Architecture Registration Exam Series.

CDS, PPP, SPD, SD, SS, BS, BDCS

That’s what I did.
That order, or a variation of it, are what many people do.

Before I give you all the details, there is something very important that you need to know.

You will get questions from any exam on any exam.

At the beginning of the process you are at a disadvantage because you have zero ARE’s under your belt.

At the end of the process you are at a disadvantage because you have forgotten everything you memorized from the first few exams.

To answer your question about which test to take first.

It doesn’t matter.

The CDS PPP and SPD Trifecta

Many people like to take CDS, PPP and SPD in that order because the study materials build upon each other. Here’s why…

Construction Documents and Services (CDS)
Contains tons of legal contract stuff, the basics of Architecture as a Business and looks at some of the basics of working in an architecture office or creating construction drawings. Having no testing experience, this test is usually the one test that most ARE Candidates are least intimidated by and existing practical knowledge of. Click here for a full description of CDS.

Programming, Planning and Practice (PPP)
A great deal of what was studied in CDS will directly carry over into PPP. PPP gets into the early stages of a project, it looks at programming and early design concepts. Click here for a full description of PPP.

Site Planning and Design (SPD)
Since site planning is integral to the early stages of the design process, this is where the broad design concepts learned in PPP start considering the site. I personally found the SPD vignettes to be tricky to get the hang of, but having CDS and PPP under my belt helped. Click here for a full description of SPD.

As a disclaimer I must say that many, but not everyone follows this philosophy.

The Island exams (SD, SS)

I call these exams islands because the content doesn’t really have any distinct overlapping information. Depending upon how comfortable you are with these subjects, these 3 exams could be very challenging or an easy win.

Schematic Design (SD)
This is about solving 2 graphic vignettes. You may want to consider how comfortable you are with the NCARB software as a gauge to taking this test sooner or later. Click here for a full description of SD.

Structural Systems (SS)
I have never been great with calculations and all the little nuances of structures. I could see how this test could be a walk in the park for some other people. There is a bit of overlap with BDCS either way. Click here for a full description of SS.

BS and BDCS aren’t BS

I thought there was some overlap in the content I studied for BS and BDCS. There are really BDCS questions on all the exams.

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